Academic Chairperson Evaluation Instrument: A Potential Design

By Fox, Richard; Burns, Matthew K. et al. | Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, May 2005 | Go to article overview
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Academic Chairperson Evaluation Instrument: A Potential Design


Fox, Richard, Burns, Matthew K., Adams, Karen I., Academy of Educational Leadership Journal


ABSTRACT

The professional literature seems to contain a deluge of descriptions of the ever-increasing complex academic chairperson functions, but there was substantially less information about chairperson evaluation procedures. Consistency in evaluation seems important give the consistency of the annual evaluation, the need for formative data, and the argued benefit of development through dean-chairperson collaboration. Therefore, the Leadership Evaluation Instrument for Academic Chairpersons (LEIFAC) was developed, piloted, and suggested as a tool for future research. The 39-item scale, completed by faculty members using a likert-scale, measures five areas: 1) Managerial, 2) Interpersonal, 3) Communication, 4) Academic, and 5) Political. Estimates of internal consistency ranged from .77 to .99. Cautious recommendations for practice and directions for future research are included.

INTRODUCTION

An annual enigma and source of anxiety exists in academic departments in most institutions of higher education: the by-law mandated chairperson evaluation. Despite the consistent frequency of this event, and perhaps because of a diversity of expectations for the chairperson, there seems to be no commonly accepted procedure with which it can be conducted (McGlone & Kovar, 1992). The first author of this current article recently completed his fifth year as chairperson of an academic department in a mid-sized, Mid-Western, doctoral/research intensive university, and, as such, has been evaluated by the departmental faculty four times. However, those efforts provided disappointing feedback that was neither useful nor substantial.

The author's ascension to the position of chairperson resulted from the previous chairperson's resignation to accept a promotion, at which time no other faculty member was interested in serving the department in this capacity. Others have described chairperson recruitment experiences similar to the one illustrated above (Bowman, 2002, Tucker, 1993, Lucas, 2000). Tucker (1993) stated, "most department chairpersons are drawn from faculty ranks and have had, at best, very little administrative experience" (p. 1). Peltason, in his introduction to Tucker (1984), pointed out that "the selection of chairperson is often based more on academic considerations or the person's reputation as a scholar than on his or her management qualifications" (p. xi.). This is problematic given that institutions of higher education are increasingly complex systems, and the chairperson's responsibilities continue to expand and increase (Hecht, Higgerson, Gmelch, & Tucker, 1998). The conflict between expectations and appropriate evaluation is made even clearer when the extensive list of published material regarding chairperson functions (Bowman, 2002; Creswell, Wheeler, Seagren, Egly & Beyer, 1990; Gmelch, & Miskin, 1993; Hecht, Higgerson, Gmelch, & Tucker, 1998; Lucas, 2000) is contrasted with the lack of discussion of chairperson evaluations from the same sources. Tucker (1993) devoted a chapter to the discussion of chairperson evaluation. He concluded that "Chairs should welcome good and frequent feedback as a source of information about how they can do their jobs better" (p 538) but offered few specifics of evaluation content or an actual process or instrument.

Another interested party in this muddle of expectation and evaluation for department chairpersons is the academic dean. The dean is responsible for leadership of the entire college, so the success of each individual department is vital to that of the college and, ultimately, of the dean as measured typically by evaluations from the provost and president of the university. Under the best of circumstances, the dean has come through the ranks as a faculty member moving from tenure-track assistant professor to tenured professor and from department chair to dean. While the same lack of mentoring and useful evaluations may have proven problematic for the dean in the role of chairperson, a realization of such problems should make the dean more sensitive to the needs of newer, less-experienced chairpersons for guidance and of more experienced chairpersons for support.

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